Identifying, Investigating, and Prosecuting Witness Intimidation in Cases of Sexual Abuse in Confinement

Regardless of the setting in which it occurs, witness intimidation is a chronic problem with devastating implications for victims and for the prosecution of crimes. Victims of sexual abuse in confinement are especially vulnerable to intimidation because they typically have fewer opportunities to escape from (or even avoid) their abusers. This article identifies strategies for investigations and prosecutions that build trust in the criminal justice system and provide multiple, safe, and confidential points of entry for potential reporters. It also discusses victim and witness safety, retaliatory violence, verbal and physical intimidation, and financial and emotional manipulation. The author also examines the potential for intimidation and violence over the course of multiple cases and across time in a single case, as well as policies and protocols that promote effective prosecution of these cases.